Hill Climbers: Policy Experts Are New to Capitol Hill Positions

Posted March 26, 2010 at 4:17pm

Who says age ruins a sense of wonder? That’s certainly not the case on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Even though three new staffers are well into their professional lives, each one is no less appreciative of his first Capitol Hill experience. All three men joined the committee this March and each brings an ambition for effecting change.

[IMGCAP(1)]Ron Kendall joined as staff director for the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. Kendall, 55, works with the subpanel chairwoman, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) on matters relating to the oversight of the General Services Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Smithsonian Institution and the Federal Protective Service.

Kendall’s arrival on Capitol Hill extends his professional experience to all three branches of government. Immediately before jumping over to the legislative branch, Kendall spent four years as a staffer at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Before his stint with the judiciary, Kendall belonged to the private sector. From 2004 to 2006, he served as senior vice president with Jones Lang LaSalle Inc, an international real estate services company.

But it’s really his 26-year career at the GSA — where he worked before the private sector — that marks Kendall’s preparation for Capitol Hill.

Although Kendall was born and raised in Stroudsburg, Pa., he has called Washington home for 32 years. After earning a master’s degree from John Hopkins University in 1978 — Kendall earned his bachelor’s from the University of Rochester in 1976 — he joined the GSA. Kendall would advance up the agency’s ranks, rising to the positions of director of the International Trade Center, chief asset officer and director of policy and analysis.

[IMGCAP(2)]In 1996, he earned a master’s in public administration at American University.

In coming to Capitol Hill, Kendall said he looks forward to harnessing his GSA experience to the subcommittee’s work.

“The areas that the subcommittee covers are ripe for change, and we have the extraordinary opportunity to do that,” he said. “I have some ideas on how to leverage the conversation. I have 30-plus years in this arena.”

And with just two weeks on the job, Kendall said he’s enjoying the change of venue. He has already helped run two hearings.

Off the Hill, Kendall stays busy raising three sons: Austin, 19; Preston, 11; and Blake, 3. “It’s like a three-ring circus because they all have disparate interests,” he said.

Another subcommittee change involves Bill Stroud, who was hired as staff director for economic development. Stroud, 39, will oversee the committee’s work on the reauthorization of the Economic Development Administration.

Stroud originally hails from Henrietta, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester. But his debut in Washington came 20 years ago for school at American University. After earning a bachelor’s degree in international studies in 1992, Stroud immediately enrolled in graduate school at American. He would go on to earn an master’s in public administration in 1995.

“In college, I was an international studies major because I thought I wanted to be a diplomat,” Stroud said. “Economic development came to make so much sense to me. It’s psychology combined with business.”

Fresh out of grad school, Stroud found his first job as a program analyst with the District of Columbia Financial Control Board, a body created in 1995 to oversee the city’s finances. After two years in city government, Stroud transitioned to the executive branch as a program manager with the Office of Management and Budget.

By the time the early 2000s rolled around, Stroud moved to the Maryland Technology Development Corp., a public-private partnership where he was chief operating officer.

But before too long, Stroud itched for a return to government, which he did when he became a budget analyst with the Department of Transportation.

By 2005, Stroud again found himself restless. This time, Stroud decided to make a full transition to the private sector through private consulting on economic development. Stroud worked independently until his move to the Hill this month.

The upcoming EDA reauthorization intrigued him. “I’m going to help shepherd the reauthorization through the House,” Stroud said. “I’ve been to a few hearings so far. Part of the job will be to draft the bill in a way that has relevance to the current economy.”

For the past 11 years, Stroud has called Laurel, Md., home. Along with his wife, Linda, he raises two children there — Harrison, 11, and Noelle Marie, 6.

Rounding out the list of committee hires is Joe Connelly, who was recently made a majority professional staff member with the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

Like his colleagues, Connelly, 53, didn’t seek out his first job on the Hill. “I was presented with the opportunity to be part of something special,” he said.

Connelly’s entrance onto the Hill comes with 28 years of experience at the Federal Railroad Administration. But it was the past eight months, when Connelly was an FRA fellow detailed to the rail subcommittee, that opened his door to Congress. In that capacity, Connelly worked on an oversight investigation of the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

“Those months were really an eye-opening experience for me,” Connelly said. “I think a lot of people think about Congress the way it’s in their textbooks. If they show up here, it’s so different.”

In his new job, Connelly acts as a rail safety expert while working to carry out Oberstar’s mission for the transportation safety agencies.

Even with a six-hour daily roundtrip commute — Connelly travels to and from Elkton, Md., everyday via the MARC train — he said he’s excited to come to work every day. “I’ve never seen a person like Rep. Oberstar, who’s both such a safety advocate and a nice guy,” Connelly said. “I’ve never seen so many people in one place who believe in what they’re doing. I see it in [ranking member] Rep. [John] Mica [R-Fla.] and everyone around me.”

Before joining the FRA in 1982, Connelly already had one career under his belt: eight years in the U.S. Army, which Connelly joined out of his hometown, Jersey City, N.J.

Connelly served as a field medic with the 82nd Airborne Division and then as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist. In the latter position, he helped remove buried chemical agents and dispose unexploded bombs.

Because of the knowledge that Connelly earned in the military, it made sense for him to join the FRA on leaving the Army. For 20 years, Connelly would work as a FRA field inspector. For the past eight years, Connelly worked as regional hazardous materials supervisor for the FRA.

Off the Hill, he gets around using one of his two AMC Pacers, a two-door compact manufactured in the late 1970s.

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